On Saturday, May 23rd, over 40 Riverton residents of all ages and backgrounds honored local departed veterans by participating in ‘Flags for the Fallen’ at Mountain View Cemetary. In preparation for Memorial Day observations, American flags were placed on about 1580 veterans’ graves. This volunteer event was organized by the Riverton Veterans Hall, an umbrella organization that combines the local veterans’ organizations. Pat Lawson, Wyoming Veterans Commissioner for the 9th District, filled the role of organizer for the event. BSA Troop 44 also participated as a group.
Primarily practiced in the beginning by women, relatives, and friends of the deceased veterans, Memorial Day has a long and complex history with ancient origins. The current name was officially changed from the commonly used “Decoration Day” in 1967. Observed on May 30th since 1868, the currently observed date of the last Monday in May was standardized by Congress in 1968. It became an official federal holiday in 1971. References to it go back as far as 1864 and it has been regularly observed by some cities since at least 1868.
Chief among its proponents were the members of the Grand Army of the Republic. The GAR was the primary order formed to represent Union veterans of the Civil War and was a powerful advocate for rights and reforms for veterans until after the First World War. Other veterans’ organizations such as the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars filled the place of the GAR whose membership decline due to age.
Volunteers quietly took bundles of flags provided by the Veterans Hall and maps of veterans’ graves provided by Davis Funeral Home. Many of them have been doing this for years, and some are newcomers.
“I’ve been doing this for seven years,” said Mickey Jares-Martin, Scoutmaster for BSA Troop 44. “It’s so great to see so many volunteers giving back to our veterans who sacrificed so much for their country.”
Some were veterans themselves, such as Samuel “Doc” Holloway, a retired Marine, “We come here to honor our departed veterans each year,” he said. “We want to be mindful of how many of them we have already lost and how few remain. We must never forget what they did for us!”
h/t Karl Falken for sharing the information and photos